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Family Valued 2.08.06

Sliding away from winter

Looking to beat the winter doldrums? Throw the kids in the car (with their birth certificates) and head north of the border to Niagara Falls, Canada. The Americana Resort boasts an indoor water park that caters to the 12-and-under crowd. Friendly, clean, and reasonably priced, it also has a spa and a comedy club.

Rooms are $103 to $200 off season ($150 to $250 during peak), and the park is open every day. Rates include park passes (the number depends on room size), with extra passes $25. If you arrive early to take advantage of the park before check-in, leave your stuff in your car and bring a beach bag. There are lockers and a changing area. (Good for first arrival, but small, so rely on your rooms for changing after check-in.)

Towels and life vests are free to guests, but I suggest you bring supplemental towels. The park has a zero-entry wave pool (5 feet at the deep end), a 3-foot-deep basketball court pool, two body slides, and two tube slides. There is a really cute baby pool and a dump-bucket, water-fun-house. The lifeguards are strict about rules, but unbelievably friendly. Pool temperature is kept at 83 degrees, air temp around 90 degrees.

There is an arcade, but I don't recommend it. The restaurant is Applebee's-type. Food is decent and you can most likely please your children and yourself. If not, you're on a strip with hundreds of family-friendly restaurants.

Close to Niagara Falls attractions and an outlet mall, this place got two thumbs up from all three parents and five kids in our party. Info at www.americananiagara.com, or call 800-263-3508.

--- Jennifer Sanfilippo

This week for families

The Wizard of Oz Fri-Sun, Feb 10-12. RAPA Playhouse, 727 E Main St. Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 and 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m. $13. Tix available at Wegmans. 325-3366

Complicated potatoes again

My kids tell me I'm like the dad in Arthur, the PBS show, always slinging complicated potatoes when they'd prefer French fries. When we're out for meals, neighboring adults (usually elderly), will comment about what open-minded eaters our children are, and I'll mumble some cynical reply. Sure, my kids will eat chicken makhani and avocado maki rolls, but a cheese other than sharp white cheddar? Fuggedaboudit. Heck, only one out of the three will touch a hamburger, and only one a hot dog (not the same one, of course).

They're not even that bad. I have a niece who eats cereal and pasta, period. That's bad. And at least they don't have food allergies and intolerances (as it seems a statistically impossible number of children are claimed to have). But it's frustrating for an old (OK, let's say aging) foodie.

My parents didn't pander to my pickiness at all. If we were having steak and kidney pie, that was what there was (and I hated that stuff). Tomato aspic?Tough luck, kid. Now my dad, who was once such a hardass, is an apologist for his grandchildren. He says times are different now, that parents are forced to eat out more, and that this, naturally, engenders a short-order mentality in our kids. Uh-huh.

I still feel like it must be my fault. So I try to push the boundaries. Knowing they like chicken and tomato sauce (well, two out of three), we try cacciatore; no dice, but a noble effort. Finally, my eldest will eat soups, so now we can move in that direction. And I know better than to dig too deeply into Paula Wolfert'sCooking of the Eastern Mediterranean, but I'm going to try that every now and then anyway. And when all else fails, homemade French fries are actually awfully good.

--- Adam Wilcox